'Safe' and 'sorry' bubble teams

Updated: January 29, 2013, 2:56 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi

You may have noticed I do a lot of interviews this time of year. If there's a local sports talk station, beat writer or campus network that hasn't called, well, then there must not be a bubble team in town.

As in this fine Xavier blog, the questions tend to be fairly standard. Where does my team stand? What's the number of wins my team needs to get in? What are the best and worst seeds my team can expect?

Good questions all, but none that can be answered in isolation. For instance, we've seen teams win twice in a week and move down the bracket. Conversely, teams will sometimes lose a game or two and actually improve their seed. Why? Because that team isn't the only one playing in a particular time frame.

Although this seems obvious, the reality of a dynamic S curve is still lost on many fans. They might be watching their team win or lose, but not realize the impact of performances of other teams in the same league or those in competition for similar positions on the bracket.

All of which is why I tend to preface answers to the more common interview questions with statements such as "nothing happens in a vacuum." Or, "if so-and-so wins the games it's supposed to." Or, even, "if we knew what every other team was going to do," etc.

So although the public wants to speculate, my job is to evaluate. And that means taking non-dynamic outcomes and using them to accurately rank teams in that context. And the best time to start doing that is when there are few, if any, nonconference games remaining in a given season.